BOULDER, CO - Oct. 2, 2021: ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s Carson Wells takes USC’s Keaontay Ingram to the ground during the Pac-12 game in Boulder, Co on October 2, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Buffaloes scouting report

Head coach: Karl Dorrell, 2nd season (6-6; 41-33 career)

2021 Record: 2-4, 1-2 Pac-12

Last week: Beat Arizona, 34-0, at home

5 Players to Watch

  • RB Jarek Broussard: Still hasn’t had his breakout game this season. The Buffs have cut his opportunities in half from last year, which is a factor, but the sophomore needs to start doing more with the opportunities he gets.
  • QB Brendon Lewis: A week ago, he finally found some rhythm and success in the passing game. For the offense to take another step forward, Lewis will have to find success as a passer once again.
  • C Colby Pursell: CU’s line has struggled at times this year, but played a bit better last week. As a leader up front, Pursell is important in getting the group going.
  • CB Tyrin Taylor: With a knee injury to Nigel Bethel Jr., Taylor, a true freshman, steps into the important role of being the third cornerback. He’s played well this season but will be called upon to be even better.
  • OLB Carson Wells: He had his best game of the season last week and the Buffs need him and others to play well and put pressure on Cal quarterback Chase Garbers.

CU offense: A week ago, the Buffs finally found a bit of success in the passing game, with Brendon Lewis throwing for a career-high 248 yards and receivers Brenden Rice, Montana Lemonious-Craig and Dimitri Stanley all making big plays. The Buffs are hoping that can be a spark for the offense and also open up the run a bit. “It’s us trying to fit our personnel and making sure we’re getting some touches on some guys that we feel that can make some big plays for us,” Dorrell said. “That kind of showed up for us this last week. We need to continue that path as coaches in trying to game plan and get guys in particular positions to make plays for us and hopefully when their confidence keeps growing like it is we can have more consistency and a lot more big plays.”

CU defense: Throughout the season, the Buffs have been solid on defense and they come into the week ranking second in the Pac-12 in points allowed (19.8 per game). They also rank fourth in the conference in yards allowed (366.3 per game). The group gained some extra confidence last week with a couple of turnovers, but also by cutting down on big plays. CU has given up 17 plays of at least 25 yards this season, but none last week. “The big thing was we limited the explosive plays,” outside linebacker Carson Wells said. “That was a big stepping stone. We’ve got to limit (some penalties) and we’ve got to do a better job of stopping the run.”

CU special teams: This unit has hit its stride, with kicker Cole Becker and punter Josh Watts both playing well. After a rough, 0-for-3 start, Becker has made his last four field goals. Watts ranks seventh in the country in punting average (48.69) and 43 percent of his punts (15 of 35) have traveled at least 50 yards. Dimitri Stanley is having a good season as a punt returner, as well, with a 12.3-yard average.

CU keys to victory

Ride momentum: One week doesn’t always carry over to the next, but last week’s win against Arizona was important for the Buffs mentally. They played well in all three phases to snap a losing streak. Duplicating that formula will be important this week.

Passing success: CU’s offense opened up last week when Brendon Lewis started hitting passes, and he had success throwing downfield. Doing that again will be important to not only move the ball but to take some pressure off the run game.

Capitalize on opportunities: Last week, CU rolled past Arizona because it created and then took advantage of Arizona mistakes. Facing a team that’s used to playing tight games, the Buffs are going to need to take advantage of every opportunity they get.

Buffs notables

  • In 12 games under Dorrell, the Buffs have been exceptional in the red zone, scoring on 30-of-32 trips inside the 20-yard line (93.8 percent). Those 30 scores include 24 touchdowns and six field goals.
  • Linebacker Nate Landman needs one tackle to reach the 400 mark for his career. To this point, only five players in CU history – Barry Remington (493), Matt Russell (446), Greg Biekert (441), Jordan Dizon (440) and Ted  Johnson (409) – have reached that mark.
  • CU has already had three turnover-free games this season. In program history, there have only been seven seasons with four turnover-free games (most recently in 2019), but never a season with five.
  • On third downs, the Buffs have been very good defensively, but not so much on offense. The Buffs’ defense ranks 24th nationally in allowing conversations just 32.9 percent of the time. The offense, meanwhile, ranks 114th nationally, converting on just 32.4 percent of opportunities.
  • The Buffs are seeking their first-ever win in Berkeley (0-4) but did win in their last trip to California, at Stanford last season. CU has never won in consecutive trips to California.
EUGENE, OREGON – OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Chase Garbers #7 of the California Golden Bears runs the ball against safety Steve Stephens IV #7 of the Oregon Ducks during the second half of the game at Autzen Stadium on October 15, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 24-17. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Golden Bears scouting report

Head coach: Justin Wilcox, 5th season (22-26)

2021 Record: 1-5, 0-3 Pac-12

Last week: Lost at Oregon, 24-17

5 Players to Watch

  • DL Luc Bequette: Seventh-year senior has 2.5 sacks and 30 tackles. In 59 games, he has 178 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in his career.
  • QB Chase Garbers: A senior, four-year starter, he currently leads the Pac-12 in total offense (283.3 yards per game) and is second in passing yards (248.7).
  • DE Cameron Goode: Cal’s leader with 3 sacks. In his last 14 games, he has recorded 16.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
  • RB Damien Moore: One of two quality backs for the Bears, he leads the team with 74 carries for 360 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also caught nine passes for 58 yards and another touchdown.
  • WR Nikko Remigio: Leads the Bears with 22 catches and has two touchdowns, but has just 121 yards receiving (5.5 per catch). He’s also a threat as a returner. He averages 27.2 yards on kickoff returns and has a 99-yard touchdown, and averages 9.2 yards on punt returns.

Cal offense: The Bears don’t have a high-powered offense and they’ve managed just 23 points in the last two games combined. But, they do have talent, led by senior, four-year starting quarterback Chase Garbers. He’s in the midst of his best season at Cal. “He’s gonna find ways to get his skill the football and make good decisions,” Dorrell said. “He’s going to be able to make some positive decisions for his team. We just need to minimize those positive decisions and hopefully make more plays than he makes.” The Bears have a solid duo at running back, talented receivers and a tight end (Jake Tonges) they utilize often in the passing game.

Cal defense: During Wilcox’s tenure, the Bears have typically been one of the better defenses in the Pac-12, but they’ve struggled a bit more than usual this season. They rank last in the Pac-12 in yards allowed (408.5 per game) and ninth in points allowed (27.0). The Bears have been solid against the run, but have been vulnerable against the pass and have struggled to get off the field on third down (46.74% conversion rate). Dorrell, however, still expects a typical Wilcox defense. “I see a really good defense,” Dorrell said. “I think their system is pretty sound and pretty solid. They’ve got some really good players, guys that can rush the passer. I think the coverage in the secondary is very challenging at times.”

Cal special teams: Junior Dario Longhetto is in his second season as the Bears’ kicker. After going 4-for-5 on field goals last year, he is 3-for-5 this year. He’s also 15-for-15 on extra points. Punter Jamison Sheahan averages 42.3 yards per punt with a long of 51. He has placed seven of his 25 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. In the return game, Nikko Remigio is a threat and ranks among the nation’s best this season. He’s tied for 17th nationally in total return yards (318).

Cal keys to victory

Garbers plays well: QB Chase Garbers is the leader of the offense and he’s played. Well, but he’s also thrown five interceptions (at least one in four games). When he’s throwing well and picking up yards as a runner, the Bears can be dangerous offensively.

Don’t get burned through the air: Until last week, CU opponents had a fairly easy time stopping the Buffs because there wasn’t much of a threat from the passing game, making it easy to stop the run. CU hash a nice game through the air last week, though. If the Bears can avoid a repeat, they can control the game.

Finish well: The Bears are always in games but have struggled to close them out. They lost their first two games after leading both at halftime. They lost two others in either the closing seconds of regulation or overtime.

Golden Bears notables

  • Chase Garbers will be making his second career start against the Buffs. As a freshman in 2018, he started and beat the Buffs in the season finale, 33-21. Cal’s defense staked the Bears to a 14-0 lead with a pair of interception returns in the first two minutes, but Garbers also played well, completing 14-of-26 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Bears with 47 rushing yards.
  • Four of Cal’s five losses have come by seven points or less this season. Overall, despite a 1-5 record, the Bears are just minus-24 in scoring margin. Since the start of 2020, six of eight Cal losses have come by one score.
  • The Bears have started fast this year, with 39.1 percent of their points (54 of 138) coming in the first quarter. They have scored on a touchdown on their opening possession four times in six games.
  • So far this season, Cal has held three of six opponents to less than 100 yards rushing and held another to 108. Four of six opponents have scored at least two rushing touchdowns, however.
  • Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is from Grand Junction and is a former Denver Broncos player and assistant coach. He played quarterback for the Broncos from 1995-96 and was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator in 2017-18.